Ole Gunnar Solskjaer urged Manchester United‘s young players to show a killer instinct after Rochdale gave them a scare in the Carabao Cup.
Sunday’s chastening Premier League loss at West Ham was almost compounded on Wednesday as 16-year-old Luke Matheson stunned Old Trafford by cancelling out fellow teenager Mason Greenwood’s effort to secure a 1-1 draw.
Sergio Romero saved the day by denying Jimmy Keohane to secure a 5-3 penalty shootout victory, saving United from an embarrassing third-round exit to the plucky League One side.
It was a let-off for Solskjaer’s men and a further reminder of the need to make their chances count, having converted just one of their 31 shots on the night.
“We go 1-0 up in many games,” the United boss said.
“Today it’s again go 1-0 up and you think ‘go on then, get the second’ which is the key now and that is learning curve for these boys as well.
“We need to go for a second.
“At this club you don’t just sit back and hope that’s good enough. If you settle for good enough, that’s not what we want.”
This performance raised more questions than it answered, but 17-year-old Greenwood was one of the few positives after wriggling free to score in front of the Stretford End – just as he did in the Europa League against Astana last week.
“He has two great feet and (took the) penalty with his right, so he must be a nightmare for defenders having him one on one in the box,” Solskjaer said.
“He can go both ways, which is for me fantastic and you can just see he has got quality and he will get his share of games. But he is young, we’ll allow him to grow slowly but surely.”
Solskjaer made nine alterations for the tie and 21-year-old defender Axel Tuanzebe impressed as he was given the captaincy, while 19-year-old left-back Brandon Williams also replaced Phil Jones at the break and impressed.
Yet Solskjaer is not afraid to throw the 17-year-old in at the deep end and would have no problems starting him in fourth round draw when United head to Chelsea.
“If you want to win it, you have to beat the best,” the manager said.
“We play them first game of the season this year. We played them in the FA Cup last year and it slots into a couple of weeks with loads of travelling.”
The Carabao Cup draw means United will have four successive away games, with trips to Norwich, Partizan Belgrade, Chelsea and Bournemouth as October turns to November.
“That’s how it is,” Solskjaer said. “And we have got to make the best out of it – and I am sure we are because that’s the type of group this is, that’s the type of club we are.
“We are not going to say ‘argh’, we’re going to relish it and look forward to it.”
As for Rochdale manager Brian Barry-Murphy, the overriding emotion was pride after going so close to one of the most famous wins in the club’s history.
“I think the lads are drained, really,” he said. “I think they feel like they shouldn’t be celebrating but they are.
“They’re a very young group of guys and challenged themselves to put on a performance that they thought we were capable of producing.
“We kind of displayed our personality I felt throughout the game and that was the most rewarding thing for me, for what the lads displayed of themselves.”
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